mon 22/04/2024

One Fine Morning review - Léa Seydoux stars in Mia Hanson-Løve's poignant love story | reviews, news & interviews

One Fine Morning review - Léa Seydoux stars in Mia Hanson-Løve's poignant love story

One Fine Morning review - Léa Seydoux stars in Mia Hanson-Løve's poignant love story

A father in a care home and a passionate affair: the density of real life

Love will remain: Clément (Melvil Poupaud), Linn (Camille Leban Martins) and Sandra (Léa Seydoux)

In the first scene of Mia Hanson-Løve’s wonderful One Fine Morning, Sandra (Léa Seydoux in a minimal, nuanced performance), is trying to visit her father, Georg (Pascal Greggory), in his Paris flat. But, stuck on the other side, he can’t find the door or turn the key to let her in.

He’s unreachable in more ways than one: he has Benson’s syndrome, a neuro-degenerative disease that is similar to dementia and affects speech and vision, a particularly cruel fate for a professor of philosophy whose life has been devoted to thinking and reading.

This end-of-life sadness is juxtaposed, in a beautifully balanced way, with erotic passion. Sandra and Clément (Melvil Poupaud), an old friend, are having an intense affair, fraught with difficulty - but there's great chemistry. He’s married with a young son, she’s been widowed for five years and has an eight-year-old daughter, Linn (a charming, natural Camille Leban Martins), who bursts out laughing when she finds Clément in her mother’s bed one morning. Sandra, short-haired and unadorned, works as an interpreter – ironic, as her father has lost his way with words while she’s steeped in their meaning, though always at a remove.Like many of Hanson-Løve’s films – The Father of My Children, Things to Come, Bergman Island – it is semi-autobiographical: her father, who died during the pandemic, was a philosophy teacher and had the same horrible illness. Georg (Pascal Greggory, pictured above with Léa Seydoux as Sandra) has to give up his flat and Sandra, her sisters and their mother dispose of his precious books (these are taken from Hanson-Løve's father's library). His soul now lies in them rather than in his physical body, Sandra explains to Linn. Georg can no longer read and even his favourite Schubert sonatas are too painful for him to listen to. “In 30 years, if I have the same illness, promise me you’ll help euthanise me before it’s too late,” Sandra begs Clément. She’s not joking.

Georg moves between nursing homes, three of which are places – sadly familiar to anyone who’s had a parent in this situation – where Hanson-Løve’s father stayed. The stress involved in finding somewhere remotely adequate is shown, not surprisingly, with great authenticity and compassion. In one place, disoriented, bedraggled people constantly wander in and out of Georg's room. But the last, in Montmartre, is better, more lively, and he starts to stand up straighter.

Françoise, Sandra's eccentric mother (a sparklingly funny Nicole Garcia), left Georg some years before and doesn’t offer Sandra much support. She is a climate activist, tearing down pictures of Macron even though she voted for him – “You can be for and against at the same time. Too complex for you to understand,” she tells her eye-rolling partner – and is always eager to be held in the cells for civil disobedience. Not an obviously maternal type, she’s forgotten her daughters’ childhoods. “I remember my professional life but otherwise – black-out,” she says gaily. “You do realise the enormity of what you’re saying?” asks Sandra, and you understand her strength and underlying vulnerability.One Fine Morning2Clément (Melvil Poupaud, pictured above with Seydoux) is a cosmo-chemist (she calls him an astrophysicist by mistake), often off on far-flung expeditions to search for extraterrestrial dust, and their flirtation begins after he shows her his isotopic imaging machine. Well, of course it does. But although he and his wife have grown apart, leaving her is not so easy and heartbreak is inevitable, with Sandra often in tears, lonely and isolated, waiting for his texts like a teenager, getting distracted in her sound-proof booth when doing simultaneous-interpreting for an English conference about railways.

The action plays out over a year, with Hanson-Løve and cinematographer Denis Lenoir creating a marvellously real world that’s never static or forced. We see the seasons and the light change as Sandra strides through the streets of Paris, taking the metro and the bus to work, to Linn's school or to visit her father, processing the emotions that assail her.

A day out on the river ends abruptly when Clement spots a friend of his wife and they have to rush off, much to Linn’s baffled annoyance. “I’m done being your mistress. I can’t stand it any more,” says Sandra, and Clement leaves yet again, with Linn developing a mysterious limp that’s probably connected to his absence. Yet there’s joy to be found in everyday things, such as when the adults act out, for the kids, a hilariously over-the-top arrival of Father Christmas and his reindeer. There’s no idealising, no sentimentality, but a happy ending is still on the cards.

This end-of-life sadness is juxtaposed, in a beautifully balanced way, with erotic passion


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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